Thursday, May 28, 2009

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra opens 2009 Israel Festival

Who is Henryk Miklolaj Gorecki and would his Symphony no. 3, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” opus 36, have an impact on the Israeli listener? The 2009 Israel Festival opened on May 24th with a concert of Polish music. Polish-born Maestro Michal Dworzynski conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in an evening of Polish music that was also the closing event of the “Polish Year in Israel” project. Distinguished guests from Poland as well as many local Polish speakers were among those present at the gala concert.

Premiered in 1977, the symphony has three slow movements, each with a different Polish text sung by a soprano, in this case, Polish singer Iwona Hossa. The texts all speak of grieving and separation through war, each are written by a woman, in two of the poems, a mother speaking of the loss of her child. Based on Polish sacred- and secular melody and modes, each movement is built of simple motifs, the orchestral score creating a massive, dark, repetitive canvas of human tragedy, with few glimmers of hope. Gorecki’s economical use of the piano is effective, sprinkling clusters and lights into the heavy soundscape. Iwona Hossa’s reading of the work is profound, dramatic and understated at the same time, her huge voice taking on the IPO with ease, presence and intensity, her high range as rich and spicy as her fruity lower range. The third movement, a lullaby based on the motif of a minor second melodic, is told by a mother who grieves for her son killed in the Silesian uprisings. Hossa, not merely a soloist here, blends with the orchestra. We hear plaintive bells. A new work to the IPO, Dworzynski breathes into it clear lines, expressiveness and shape. He leads clearly and communicates his ideas to the orchestra in detail. Hossa’s performance was unforgettable. Above all, Dworzynski and Hossa prove that outstanding musicianship can build a convincing, moving performance.

The atmosphere in the hall took an upward lift after intermission, with two early works of Frederyk Chopin (1810-1849), at the hands of two young soloists. Chopin’s Variations on “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, composed in 1827, his first work for piano and orchestra, brim with youthful exuberance, daring and humor. Israeli pianist, Dorel Golan, understood the task at hand from the first note, utilizing her crystal clean style and technical brilliance to frolic with the orchestra, much of whose role was either very secondary or buffoonery. Her enjoyment of this tongue-in-cheek piece was infectious, she was bold and secure, hinting at drama in the minor variation, glittery and spirited in the others, (hitting the pedal too hard at times), making virtuosic playing appear a breeze.

Polish pianist Jacek Kortus, 21, is a music student at the Poznan Music Academy. He was soloist in Chopin’s Concerto in E minor for Piano and Orchestra no. 1, opus 11 (1830.) Following Dworzynski’s gregarious introduction, Kortus entered with carefully paced gestures, using his rich palette of pianistic color to weave gorgeous melodic lines and follow Chopin’s sudden changes. His playing boasts both brilliance and moderation. Soloist and orchestra were integrated. In the second movement, Romance-Larghetto, Kortus plays out the Romantic plot with richness and generosity, floating wisps of color. and gliding. The final movement was well contrasted, juxtaposing heavy moments with light. This is surely a work to be enjoyed in the concert hall and Dworzynski and Kortus collaborated to give its performance freshness and color, to set the audience’s heart a-flutter.

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